Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 19 October 2019

Peterson Feital ViaMedia.News Toxic Masculinity and the Church

Ian Paul Psephizo Should clergy count their days and hours?

Eve Poole Church Times How to break free from a culture of overwork
“Christians must model a different way of living, says Eve Poole. Help is at hand from Oscar Wilde and the latest research”

Joel Hollier The Guardian I’m gay, married, and not leaving my church

Paul Bayes ViaMedia.News The Rainbow of Non-violent Advocacy

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Susannah ClarkSavi HensmanJames ByronSimon Dawson Recent comment authors
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Susannah Clark
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Susannah Clark

My thanks to Peterson for his article on ‘toxic masculinity’ and to Via media for publishing it. It was moving and thought provoking. In the ‘growing up’ of many young men, there is an underlying sexual insecurity, and fear that other guys will think they are weak, or effeminate, or gay. And so, they often over-compensate to ward off those feared opinions of other men, and to bond, and feel secure in the social group. I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, I think it is vital for young men to be able to feel and express emotions, to… Read more »

Simon Dawson
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Simon Dawson

Susannah, I share you interest in this issue. For me it’s the difference between “Either/Or” and “Both/And”. One way of seeing things is either/or. You can (as a man) be masculine or feminine. If you wish to display a set of traits stereotyped as female, such as showing weakness and emotion, you have to give up being a man. I would argue that the more healthy way forward is “both/and”. It is perfectly possible to be able to display those behaviours typically stereotyped as female, whilst simultaneously retaining ones masculine qualities. In my own life I spent my first 20… Read more »

Susannah Clark
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Susannah Clark

A lot of truth in that: my concern is not that guys shouldn’t open to traits more commonly attributed to women, but that in the process they don’t abandon manhood. I think you’re saying the same thing? I see manhood as a God-given gift, with its own integral state of being, and I see it as good and attractive and I have a huge sympathy for men. I suppose one thing that worries me is if, in the renunciation of ‘toxic masculinity’ things swing too far the other way, and the Church becomes – as it is in quite a… Read more »

Savi Hensman
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Savi Hensman

While there are some traits more common among men than women, Susannah, especially in particular cultures, I fear that the notion that there are distinct ways in which boys/men and girls/women should behave can lead to a kind of policing of gender, even if not as brutal as what Peterson describes. I think a lot of us have experienced this in one way or another and it can be destructive as well as futile. For instance, I am not sure what needs and strengths I am supposed not to have but a man acceptably can (other than those like prostate-checking… Read more »

James Byron
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James Byron

Sex-based trends should never, ever be prescriptive, and making them so is where society went badly wrong in the past. Just because most members of a sex may tend towards a particular path doesn’t mean all will. Some men’s vocation lies in being nannies, as some women’s does in taking up arms and joining the infantry. Society should allow both to follow their star. But the alternative also holds: we shouldn’t try and push either sex towards a particular path in the name of equality of outcome, or aim for 50/50 splits. If there are sex-based trends, doing so will… Read more »

Susannah Clark
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Susannah Clark

Savi, I totally agree that gender should not be ‘policed’. And connected to that, I also agree that the notion that men and women ‘should’ behave in distinct ways is wrong too. What I do believe, though, is that being a woman and being a man are distinctive experiences and involve integral states of being, both physical and mental/emotional. The expression of identity is often culturally led and sometimes (sadly) culturally policed. In this sense, the *expression* of gender can sometimes be a social construct. However, I believe distinctive male and female states of being have evolved over millions of… Read more »

Savi Hensman
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Savi Hensman

I would agree, Susannah, that most people do have an internal, integral sense of being boys/men, girls/women or occasionally neither that does not always tie in with biological sex. This is often pretty durable from childhood or adolescence and trying to change it can just tie people up in knots. However people may have various ideas of what they mean by this which, I believe, are almost invariably linked with culture, which is anyway always evolving, in part because of challenges to stereotypes. What is or was ‘natural’ for a Victorian upper-class ‘lady’ and a woman accustomed to carrying heavy… Read more »

Susannah Clark
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Susannah Clark

I pretty much agree with everything you’ve said here, Savi.

James Byron
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James Byron

Outstanding meditations on sex and gender, Susannah! For my part, I think men need to police “toxic masculinity.” I don’t like the phrase itself, and don’t use it, since, like “problematic,” it’s become a gift to social conservatives: but in substance, not semantics, the need to restrain impulsive young bucks driven by a ruinous mix testosterone and ego has been recognized as long as mankind. Masculinity isn’t toxic, but insecure men hopped up on braggadocio are until they mature, and some never do. I agree that far too many go wrong in viewing masculinity — by which I mean personality… Read more »

Susannah Clark
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Susannah Clark

Joel cites the alarming call of Archbishop Glenn Davies to those who support gay sex and marriage: to leave the Anglican Communion and start their own church. https://www.smh.com.au/national/please-leave-us-archbishop-tells-same-sex-marriage-supporters-to-abandon-anglican-church-20191015-p530tk.html Describing gay relationships as ‘the lusts and pleasures of the world’, he insists there is no place for these sins. To Joel I would just want to say: the Anglican Church in Sydney diocese is not the only expression of Anglicanism in the world. And Joel, I think you and your husband are part of the future of the Church, not its past. Here in the UK I know first-hand how in… Read more »